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Thread: Weaning Bottle Baby Calf's?

  1. #1
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    Default Weaning Bottle Baby Calf's?

    This is our first foray into calf's. We have four. One Dexter=Galloway born June 6th and three Holstein-Dexter about a month and a half old (all born within days of each other). It is too hard to treat the older one differently and she is as small as the younger ones so we will wean them altogether.

    I have been reading websites and books on raising a bottle (actually they drink out of a pan now) calfs. Don't feed them frain, feed them grain, don't let them eat green grass. let them, etc.

    How do most of you that raise calfs treat them at 6 weeks? We are feeding them milk twice a day. Let them free feed hay and give them either alf starter or COB with molasses. They seem to be doing well. I was picking a handful or two or green grass as a treat but a neighbor said no way it will give them scours.

    Also the holstein mixes still have those bony hips. Sleek coats, bright eyes, seem to be gaining well. Dexter-Galloway is a stout bulky little thing. Do they ever lose that look? How big does the average Holstein-Dexter cross get?

    All four of ours are heifers. The farm we got the first one from breeds them to Yaks. Smaller babies but tough as nails. Claim the females are fertile the males are like mules but make great draft animals for a small farm. Hair makes great socks.

    Anyone ever try a Yak bull for a cross? Is this an Alaska thing? They are cute looking little things.

  2. #2
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    After we are done w/the milk replacer we just kept ours on a starter feed and hay.Couple of bags of that then switch to a beef grower feed.Ours were steered just growing steaks on the hoof.Next time we will switch to oats and corn try for more marbling.

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    Quote Originally Posted by 11&counting View Post
    After we are done w/the milk replacer we just kept ours on a starter feed and hay.Couple of bags of that then switch to a beef grower feed.Ours were steered just growing steaks on the hoof.Next time we will switch to oats and corn try for more marbling.

    How long did you keep them on milk replacer? One place said they just added the powdered milk replacer in with the COB at 4 weeks and reduced the amount by 8 weeks.

    I put a mineral/salt block in wth them yesterday and they went crazy over it. I was wooried they would OD on it but they were ok this morning.

  4. #4
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    I raise a calf or two a year for home use but I use goat milk and just feed till I quick milking the goats the calves most of the time are between 3-4 months of age...my calves are on pasture and get free choice of hay...I keep salt in front of them at all times...I don't grain my calves as the grass I have up here and the alfafla hay is enough to keep their protein levels up and they grow well...Sorry I couldn't be of more help but I think each area of the country it depends on what you have as far as feed and pasture as to how you grow your calves...Alpine

  5. #5
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    Some people wean as early as 6 weeks, but I find that to be a little young.

    I usually wean about 12 weeks, and give them a little grain from 6 weeks until 16 weeks, then have them straight on pasture/hay. I too feed goat milk, and have raised 12 so far this year. (Including the two angus cross bull calves that I'm feeding right now.)

    But each time is different, and it depends on what kind of pasture you have available, and what kind of calf you are feeding.

    I heard stories of calves only a couple of weeks old surviving on clover blooms. But have seen much older calves languish when the pasture is dry and the hay is not the best quality. (Or older calves push them aside.) There is always a strong calf that can be weaner sooner, and the sickly one that could use a few more weeks of the bottle to get them through tough times.

    Just use your best judgement and keep and eye on them.

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by alpine View Post
    I raise a calf or two a year for home use but I use goat milk and just feed till I quick milking the goats the calves most of the time are between 3-4 months of age...my calves are on pasture and get free choice of hay...I keep salt in front of them at all times...I don't grain my calves as the grass I have up here and the alfafla hay is enough to keep their protein levels up and they grow well...Sorry I couldn't be of more help but I think each area of the country it depends on what you have as far as feed and pasture as to how you grow your calves...Alpine
    I do the same in michigan here . same as you.

    i don't ever give store bought grain. just good grass and hay.
    momof23goats

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by momof23goats View Post
    I do the same in michigan here . same as you.

    i don't ever give store bought grain. just good grass and hay.
    I think the calf itself will kind of tell you when to wean it when it is filling up on the pasture or hay and really eating good then you can wean...Some calves are just slower [in the brain dept.] on getting that there is other things beside milk to eat...Alpine

  8. #8
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    We wean our dairy calves (25 heifers or so a year) when they're consuming a MINIMUM of 2# of grain daily. This is usually at 7 weeks, and we'd never wean before 6 weeks no matter what. The rare calf who has had problems (a navel infection or something) may not really start on the grain for awhile... and we'll leave them on milk longer while we fix whatever is wrong, and then wean when they're eating well.

    If you don't want to feed grain, you NEED to feed milk or good quality replacer longer... at least 12 weeks... because their rumens don't develop well enough to digest hay or coarse forage until at least that age. We begin offering handfuls of hay at 8 weeks, but don't plan on it providing any meaningful nutrients until they're at least 3 months old.

    If you can set up a really good rotational grazing arrangement, where they're given fresh forage daily (and not allowed to "back graze" the pasture they were on for at least 6 weeks), you probably can grow well grown calves without much grain at all.

    I haven't ever raised a Holstein-Dexter cross, but I suspect you're just seeing the "dairy character" coming out, and they certainly won't ever end up as "smooth" bodied as fullbred beef calves will.

    We have a Dexter-Jersey steer who is about ready to butcher (has an appointment in early November) and he's nice and smooth, finishing nicely, but isn't as blocky and wide as the purebreds are.

    "early" weaning (as opposed to beef calves on mama who will nurse for 6 months, and who are getting a LOT of milk at 3-4 months... as much as 40# a day) is a compromise, because feeding whole milk or milk replacer at those levels is very, very expensive. Of course, these days, feeding grain to get fast growing calves (we need our heifers to breed to calve the first time at 24 months, so they MUST be growthy, with good condition, or they simply won't reach puberty in time) is insanely expensive. It's getting ugly.

    Summerthyme

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by Summerthyme View Post
    We wean our dairy calves (25 heifers or so a year) when they're consuming a MINIMUM of 2# of grain daily. This is usually at 7 weeks, and we'd never wean before 6 weeks no matter what. The rare calf who has had problems (a navel infection or something) may not really start on the grain for awhile... and we'll leave them on milk longer while we fix whatever is wrong, and then wean when they're eating well.

    If you don't want to feed grain, you NEED to feed milk or good quality replacer longer... at least 12 weeks... because their rumens don't develop well enough to digest hay or coarse forage until at least that age. We begin offering handfuls of hay at 8 weeks, but don't plan on it providing any meaningful nutrients until they're at least 3 months old.

    If you can set up a really good rotational grazing arrangement, where they're given fresh forage daily (and not allowed to "back graze" the pasture they were on for at least 6 weeks), you probably can grow well grown calves without much grain at all.

    I haven't ever raised a Holstein-Dexter cross, but I suspect you're just seeing the "dairy character" coming out, and they certainly won't ever end up as "smooth" bodied as fullbred beef calves will.

    We have a Dexter-Jersey steer who is about ready to butcher (has an appointment in early November) and he's nice and smooth, finishing nicely, but isn't as blocky and wide as the purebreds are.

    "early" weaning (as opposed to beef calves on mama who will nurse for 6 months, and who are getting a LOT of milk at 3-4 months... as much as 40# a day) is a compromise, because feeding whole milk or milk replacer at those levels is very, very expensive. Of course, these days, feeding grain to get fast growing calves (we need our heifers to breed to calve the first time at 24 months, so they MUST be growthy, with good condition, or they simply won't reach puberty in time) is insanely expensive. It's getting ugly.

    Summerthyme
    I just bought another 4 bags of milk I pick up this morning. It is running about a dollar a pound for Land o'lakes, Thimpson Labs or Manna Pro. Plus we had a milk "shortage" here in Alaska so I have had to feed all three at times just to be able to get them milk.

    The last few days I have been putting their grain in the bowls (the 5 inch tall about 18 inch diameter soft rubber ones... and putting the milk on top. They drink the milk first and than eat the grain. They are going thru increasing amounts of grain and are up to about a large coffee can each a day. One younger dairy calf mix out eats the other by a lot including the older Dexter-Galloway cross. I suspect she will turn out the largest. It must be like an under 5 foot woman marrying a over 6 foot guy, this kids can be all over the map in height.

    I make sure they have hay, water and the salt block all the time so it's hard to tell how much they rely on it. We are putting the hay rack in the barn this weekend. We are still trying to beat the weather closing it in and so far I have been putting a couple of leafs in the corner.

    I know it would be expensive but I think with winter being similar to yours it might be prudent to kep them on the milk replacer as long as possible even if it is one meal a day if they are going well on grain. We pay about $20 a bag for calf replacer and 14-16 for a bag of COB. They seem to like the COB with molasses the best.

    One woman told me she mixes COB with molasses, calf starter, milk replacer powder (or expired human milk powder as she was LDS) and some mineral/vitamin mix I can't recall in a garbage can and fed that until they were six months old. I found several formulas in Raising a Calf for Beef.

    You are the resident expert by far Summer and live in roughly the same climate as I do. Assuming two grain and/or milk meals a day what is the easiest way to feed them? Can I mix the ingredients and feed it in three pans along with separate water or should I still mix the milk and pour it over it?

    Is calf starter a lot better than the COB/Milk replacer combo?

    Thanks for all the info. I want these girls to do well.

  10. #10
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    Just got back with the fourth and final baby girl. She is just as big as her half sisters and two weeks younger.

    And, she has grey eyes, not cow brown!

    I will try to post pics later. I am a happy new critter mommy!

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